HOUSTON – Driver’s licenses can now be obtained in Houston on the third Monday of each month.
State, county and city officials formally opened a mobile office of the Mississippi Highway Patrol at the WIN Job Center in Houston last week and drivers can now get their licenses, permits and conduct test at the office on Monroe Street.
The Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol inspected several locations in Chickasaw County in June and announced plans to set up a mobile office at the WIN Job Center in Houston on a monthly basis to handle licensing and testing needs in the community.
“I introduced legislation to put a mobile office in every county seat in the state and that bill died,” said Chickasaw County State Representative Preston Sullivan. “It just made sense for rural counties.”
Mississippi Senator Russell Jolly, who co-sponsored a similar bill in the Senate said they ended up putting it in as an amendment in another piece of legislation and that passed.
“This will save people a lot of time and travel,” said Jolly.
Anderson McFarland, Chickasaw County District 1 Supervisor, was influential in finding a spot for the mobile office and carried MHP official to a variety of locations earlier this summer.
“They had a number of requirements and I’m just glad we can get this office open in Chickasaw County,” said McFarland. “This was a team effort by the city, county and state.”
Houston Mayor Stacey Parker said he suggested the WIN Job Center as the perfect spot for the mobile office.
“It was handicapped accessible, it was open regular hours and had computer capabilities,” said Parker. “I want to thank Preston, Russell, Chickasaw County and the Mississippi Highway Patrol for being diligent and making this happen.”
WIN Job Center Director Tish Kelley said this will help their clients get jobs.
“When we sit down with people looking for jobs, they often don’t have a driver’s license and that can be a big hurdle in them getting a job,” said Kelley. “I see this as economic development for this area.”
The Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol closed their driver’s license office at the Houston Fire Station in the fall of 2012. That decision required residents seeking to make a change to their driver’s license or teenagers looking to get a driver’s license to travel to offices in Starkville, Tupelo or Columbus.
The Department of Public Safety (DPS) cited a lack of use, lack of funding and personnel constraints in making the decision to close the Houston office.
That move prompted Chickasaw County lawmakers to introduce legislation requiring DPS to set up satellite locations at county courthouses at least once a month. The law was passed in the 2013 session and required DPS to have a part-time location in every county seat where a request was made by the board of supervisors.
When DPS began dragging their feet to re-open a local office state officials threatened to not support funding needs of the Department.
Mississippi Highway Patrol Master Sergeant John Harris said there were other factors that slowed the move.
“Our facilities have to be ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant,” said Harris. “We also have technology requirements for our computers and equipment.”
Harris said troopers will bring a photo machine, computer and the forms and tests needed to obtain a driver’s license. He said the Houston office will conduct road tests.
“The only thing we will not do is commercial driver’s licensing,” said Harris. “They still have to go to Columbus for that.”
Harris said the office will be staffed with two to three people once a month.
Harris said a location in Okolona, the Houston Fire Department and the Civic Center at Joe Brigance Park were all considered as possible positions, but the WIN Center met all requirements.
“A lot of people have been working on this since they closed the office at the fire station,” said McFarland. “It was taking half a day to go and get a driver’s license and this will help everyone in Chickasaw County.”